How could someone not like soccer? Once again, this World Cup has delivered high entertainment. After the scenes yesterday that saw Germany eliminated, Group H tried to top the drama.
Group H Drama
Portugal were assured a place in the Round of 16. At different moments during the simultaneous matches, the remaining qualification spot was occupied by each of the other three teams.
A long ball on the right wing to Diogo Dalot led to a neat finish by Ricardo Horta to give the Portuguese the lead after five minutes. After Horta’s goal, Portugal and Ghana were the teams progressing.
Ghana earned a penalty, but Andre Ayew failed to put it away. Ayew missed the chance to avenge the missed penalty against Uruguay in the 2010 World Cup Quarterfinals. After a bright start, the missed penalty summed up Ghana’s game, a missed opportunity to reach the knockout stages.
Giorgio de Arrascaeta netted five minutes later to give Uruguay the lead on 26 minutes. Moments after Uruguay took the lead, Kim Young-Gwon pounced on a mistake by Cristiano Ronaldo to equalize for South Korea. Just past the half-hour mark, de Arrascaeta scored a second with a sumptuous volley. At this point, Portugal and Uruguay were the teams going through.
Group H was finely balanced for the next hour of play. Then, in the first minute of stoppage time Son Heung-Min played an inch-perfect ball through three Portuguese defenders to put Hwang Hee-Chan in on goal. The smart finish broke Uruguayan hearts and sent South Korean fans into ecstasy.
Portugal still managed to advance, but did not help Uruguay get out of the World Cup group stage. Instead, South Korea punched its ticket to likely battle Brazil.
Portugal advance, but eyes set on more drama at World Cup
Portugal used more of the squad against South Korea. The side rested key starting players. For example, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, João Félix and Rúben Dias all sat. For most of the game the team played well and looked bright. There were some great passages of play.
Fans can remember this game for years primarily for South Korea finding a winner in extra time. However, Portugal showed something they haven’t necessarily had in previous World Cup, strength in depth. People are starting to ask if this might be Portugal’s year.
I was excited to see Ricardo Horta have an impact. I said he should start for Portugal before the tournament based on his stats over the past year. Grabbing his goal will give him loads of confidence, despite the loss.
When Horta was joined by Rafael Leão of Milan and André Silva of RB Leipzig, I thought this might be a moment when Portugal were unleashed. Unfortunately, the trio was pretty forgettable. I do think they should be given another chance to lead the attack, but next time with Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva also on the field to provide service.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Xinhua
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